Submission: Opposition to the sale of provincially owned land, Tafelberg, Sea Point
Submitted by: Professor Marie Huchzermeyer, Director of the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) and convenor of the Master in the Built Environment in the Field of Housing degree in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. Professor Huchzermeyer is author of several books including Cities With Slums: From Informal Settlement Eradication to a Right to the City in Africa (UCT Press, Cape Town, 2011).
The 1.7 ha Tafelberg site in Sea Point Cape Town represents a prime opportunity for bold state action which is needed to begin breaking down the apartheid spatial structure. Post-apartheid spatial planning in South Africa has been weak in impacting on spatial change of the country’s major cities. To some extent, this has been addressed to the Constitutional Court’s DFA judgement in 2010, which finally clarified which sphere of the state has the right to make planning decisions.
While spatial development frameworks are strengthened under the new Spatial Land Use Management Act of 2013 (SPLUMA), the city’s spatial structure is determined on an ongoing basis by a myriad individual land parcel transactions. The strengthened land use management regime under SPLUMA aims to guide the nature of development onindividual parcels of land. However, it cannot guide land transactions as such.
In South Africa’s economy, individual and organisational wealth is tied to land, and under liberal doctrine land transactions have the purpose of increasing such wealth. Planning, particularly in transitional countries like South Africa which have set themselves the goal of reducing inequalities and ensuring urban inclusion, has the difficult task at times of steering against the intuition of selling land to the highest bidder and developing land to the highest returns. The current system does not dictate how privately held land may or may not change hands, although through its zoning schemes it does dictate the scale of the development by conferring particular development rights to land.
State-held land, however, is bound in several ways as a strategic public asset that may not simply be sold with the purpose of maximising the financial standing of the state institution that happens to own it. Several high level undertakings of the South African state make this clear. These are briefly set out below:
– In his February 2010 State of the Nation address, President Zuma committed government to ‘set aside over 6 000 hectares of well-located public land for low income and affordable housing’. This was formalised in the Outcome 8 Delivery Agreement, with Output 4 reading ‘Mobilisation of well located public land for low income and affordable housing with increased densities on this land and in general’.
– The National Development Plan of 2012 refers to this output on p.269 as ‘The unlocking of well-located land, especially state-owned land, for affordable housing’. It continues by placing this into the context of complex challenges related to the urban structure, tendencies in low income housing delivery, etc., highlighting ‘an urgency to the matter’ (p.272)
– The Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2014-2019 states (p.26) that ‘Progress needs to be made towards breaking apartheid spatial patterns and integrating residential and commercial hubs in our cities and towns’. It highlights in particular impediment, namely that ‘well located land is expensive’.
– The 2016 Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) (p23) highlights the ‘profound social divisions’ stemming from apartheid, which ‘have been reinforced by the uneven growth in land values and limited access by the poor to resources’. The IUDF (p46) states that ‘Changing the trajectories of spatial development will require bold measures over a sustained period… The process must start now in order to stop the dysfunctional patterns that have continued since 1994’.
If planned and designed carefully, the 1.7 hectare Tafelberg portion of land in Sea Point can be developed in a compact way for at least 1000 subsidised low income apartments, and by so doing prevent sprawl on the urban periphery by at least 25 hectares. Low income beneficiaries or tenants (depending on the development model) will have access to public transport, public amenities and economic opportunities. The media publicity and public support for the current campaign #Stop the Sale is an indication of the broad societal buy-in to the national undertaking to restructure South African cities, and the broad understanding of the role of well-located state owned land in achieving this goal. The campaign is a sign of active citizenry, a characteristic called for in the National Development Plan. It is also an act of collective claiming of the right to the city, a notion gaining increasing support from the United Nations.
On this basis, this submission calls for the use of the Tafelberg land portion by the provincial government of the Western Cape for low income housing.
This submission is endorsed by the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) and by members of the School of Architecture and Planning (SoAP) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Professor, School of Architecture and Planning